Didi Pop has been embarrassing me. Her tunes are so catchy that I find myself singing them in public places, not even realizing I'm doing it. Normally, that wouldn't be so bad, even with a 40 year-old guy singing kids' tunes, but there's something particularly disturbing about singing a line like "when my diaper's drippy, it hardens up my poo" and realizing by the look on the grocery clerk's face that yes, I did sing that out loud.
I'm referring to a line from the song, "B-R-A-T-Y", the video of which (watch it below) was my first introduction to Didi Pop, a children's artist from Los Angeles. For me, the song was an instant classic; amazingly catchy and upbeat, and so up front about its dietary/digestive message. I think we in the kids' music world sometimes shy away from songs that could be considered "preachy" or "messagey" (I don't think that's even a word... and my spell checker agrees... but I've heard it used a lot in this genre), or we try to be so subtle about it that any message that is there is going to be too vague for a lot of kids to even appreciate. But Didi has nothing to hide on "B-R-A-T-Y"; if you eat certain foods, your bowel movements will be more solid. Pure information, sung so matter-of-factly and confidently with a bouncy "11 o'clock number" showtune melody that it becomes ingrained almost instantly. Now, if the message in "B-R-A-T-Y" was bad information, it could be dangerous propaganda... you wouldn't want kids going around singing "when my diaper's drippy, I should hitchhike to Reykjavik"... but as it is, the song is a perfect vehicle for its message.
Didi came to a show of mine in L.A. earlier this year and we exchanged CDs. She gave me her debut Didi Pop CD and I gave her a scratched copy of Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer in Twelve Different Languages (which was hidden inside one of my CD cases). I think I got the better deal from that as we have since listened to her CD over and over and over, with my girls requesting it over and over and over and me not minding to play it over and over and over. So what makes Didi's CD so great? Well, I'll tell you...
Didi has one of the best voices I've ever heard in the kids' genre; great range and tone and polished yet down-to-earth. At times she sounds a bit like other favorites of mine like Frances England and Gwendolyn from Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, so there's a familiarity about the general sound which is nice for what she's singing, but she also has very much of her own voice and style. If anything, Didi's singing approach and aura as a performer reminds me most of Mary Poppins; at times soft and sweet but often in-your-face brassy with a sly charm and wit that belies the messages she is planting.
Her singing is one thing, but Didi is also a top-notch songwriter, giving a great vehicle to her voice and singing approach. "The Cool Alphabet Song" (see video below) at first seems like yet another attempt to supplant that famous alphabet song (which is not likely to happen in our lifetime), but it takes some really interesting turns musically and uses some clever letter devices (not unlike Ralph's World's recent "Abby's Alphabet Soup"). "Feed the Pet" is a cute calypso style tune and "Max the Wonderdog" a terrific Tin Pan Alley style tale. "Yellow Car" is an example of the depth and breadth of this album, as it was not an early favorite of mine and yet it's the tune I find myself singing in public places most often lately (which is much less embarrassing than "B-R-A-T-Y"). "Look at Yourself in the Mirror" is a super cool pop tune with yet another incredibly catchy hook; "Neferdidi" is a fun genie-in-the-lamp story with a great Silk Road sound; and "Monday" is a neat a cappela trip through the days of the week and other time-related measurements.
The closing song on Didi Pop is called "Dream". "Dream" is not just one of the best lullabies I've ever heard, it's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, period. This song has actually made me cry while driving down the road listening to it and thinking of how magnificent life really is (yes, more embarrassment if a trucker happens to drive by and see me bawling while listening to a lullaby!). The lyrics are fairly standard lullaby fare about rainbows and clouds and such, but there is something so deeply moving about the way everything comes together for me with the words and music and Didi's elegant singing, that I don't know if I can even express it adequately. When our Becca was a baby, we had a mix CD of different mellow songs (James Taylor, etc.) to play for her at bedtime, and it was nice for us to hear those songs coming through the baby monitor in our room. I'll never forget how one night, as I was drifting away into sleep, I barely heard "Canon in D" playing through the monitor, and with my eyes closed I could see this gloriously colorful world of music far away among the darkness of the room and of the night and of the world. It was a wonderful feeling and this song is one of the few things I've heard since then that has touched into that same kind of spirit.
I couldn't talk about Didi Pop's album without mentioning what is perhaps its greatest weapon of all... Delilah. Delilah is Didi's daughter, three years-old at the time of the recording, and she may be the cutest sounding little kid I've heard on any children's CD (and I've heard some cute ones!). She interacts wonderfully on songs like "Feed the Pet" ("feed a Dinah Shore!") and "Merci" and pops up in a few spots here and there, and I would have liked to hear more of her on the album. My advice to Didi is to take Delilah into a studio and record her for several hours saying various different things, so she'll have a backlog of cute Delilah recordings to use for albums to come, though I'm sure she'll still be very cute sounding for at least a few more years.
But you don't have to take my word for any of this... Didi has generously offerred her entire album to listen to for free on her website at this link: http://www.didipop.com By all means, go there and listen, but be forewarned, you may find yourself belting out her tunes in public, and if so, well, I hope you don't get embarrassed too easily.
Didi Pop's website
Friday, August 21, 2009
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